A Terrorist in the Heart of America

Last month I warned Pajamas Media readers that a Chicago-area man was involved in the worst act of terrorism to hit India in modern times. This month the Department of Justice indicted David Headley on 12 charges related to the Mumbai terror attacks and plans he and accomplices had in the works against a Danish newspaper that had printed controversial images of the prophet Muhammad. Six of those charges are for the murder of Americans abroad.

Headley has plead not guilty to the charges, but his lawyers claim he is cooperating with the FBI. Indian officials claim they also will charge Headley and have expressed an interest in extraditing him.

The Mumbai terror attacks rank as one of the most sophisticated operations ever run by a terrorist organization. It involved ten men who arrived by sea, worked in teams, and hit at least ten targets nearly simultaneously. Leaders of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba kept in constant contact with the attackers from Pakistan, directing them who to kill and giving them words of encouragement. When the last of the attackers was killed at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel three days after the carnage began, over 173 people were dead and another 308 wounded.

This gruesome act of terror was clearly well-planned. At least some of that planning was done by Chicago resident David Headley.

Davide Headley was born Daood Gilani in Washington, D.C., to a Pakistani father and an American mother. When the young Daood's parents divorced he moved to Pakistan with his father and attended an elite military academy. His mother eventually gained legal custody and he moved to Philadelphia where he bounced around in a number of low-level jobs. Apparently not satisfied with a life of poverty, he became involved in a scheme to smuggle heroin from Pakistan. This landed him in jail for 15 months after a 1998 conviction. Published reports claim that the short sentence was due to his cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration (he is said to have become an informant).

He was granted special permission by the supervising court to travel to Pakistan while still on probation. This move has sparked widespread speculation abroad that he was on the Drug Enforcement Administration's payroll. It has flamed the fire of conspiracy theorists, who have taken to calling Headley a "double agent" and an "agent gone rogue." But there is no evidence that Headley was anything more than an informant wishing to reduce his sentence.

And cooperate he must have, because his court supervision was cut short only a few months after 9/11 -- three years before his probation was set to end.

It is not clear at what point Headley became radicalized and committed to violent jihad. It should be remembered that he attended a military academy with close ties to the Pakistani establishment. Growing up he would have been taught that India had no right to Kashmir, a majority Muslim region which Pakistan also claims as its own. Paramilitary organizations fighting against India in Kashmir were largely sponsored by the Pakistani government and military. The leap from troubled youth to supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was involved with state sponsorship up until recently in the Kashmir conflict, is not as great as might be imagined.